On Your Own
The Peters weren't the first to leave, nor were they the last which allowed several of us to be distracted by the renewed activity on the boards. Several riders were whizzing around the boards, laughing and joking as they went, clearly comfortable with each other and the track, the only one I recognised was Chris Hoy. It was with very mixed feelings that I watched my cousin and her parents depart but any chance of regret was interrupted by my being addressed from behind.
"Some show, lassie."
"Eh?" I really must work on that; I spun around to face my addressor.
"I'm cut to tha quick, you've forgotten me already."
"Er hi, Chris, you kinda surprised me."
"You didna tell me the whole truth last week."
"Yer never told me you were up for my job."
"I'm not, I mean I can't, I mean," I babbled.
"On what I saw an hour ago there'll be some watching their backs."
"But I'm still at school..."
"And your point?"
"Give over teasing, Chris," Caro suggested joining us.
"I thought you were flying out today?"
"The roadies today, us trackies go Wednesday."
"So you might be up for some one on one Tuesday?" Caroline suggested.
"Have a word with Peter, I'm game."
"Well Drew here needs to get changed."
"Ye not staying to catch our session?"
"I'll speak to the boss."
"Some of tha guys'd appreciate some support."
We got the okay to watch for a bit; never know we might pick something up!
"Tom's a bit of alright."
"Huh?" I recognised Mand's voice.
"Tom Clancy," she clarified.
"I wasn't looking."
"Ooh no," another voice added, "give me Bradley any day."
"You'd go for anything in shorts, Claire."
"Only if they're going to the 'lympics." she grinned.
The shrill blast of a whistle changed the circling riders attitude from jovial mates to intense competitors, the pace increasing as if a switch was thrown. I watched enthralled as they fell into a tight line out, just millimetres separating their tyres as they whipped around the track at a good forty kph.
"How do they do that? I'd be scared of hitting someone's wheel," Claire observed.
"Practice I guess," I suggested.
"At least we don't ride that close on the road," Mand noted.
"It's a useful skill even on the road."
"The way you rode earlier you must do loads on the 'drome." Claire suggested as the train of riders swept past.
"I've done a couple of meets, not that I did very well, was last year though."
"Last year or not, Drew, you were better than everyone else out there," Mand stated.
"Come on, Wiggy!" Claire screamed almost bursting my eardrum.
'Looks like they're starting to bond already.' Caroline thought to herself, 'poor old Drew seems to be a girl magnet, from what Dave was saying most of his school friends are girls although he has some solid friendships with a couple of lads; I wonder what's going to happen this summer?'
We watched Chris and the other seniors for best part of an hour before Caro joined us.
"Picked up any tips?"
Claire coloured up depriving me of my usual response.
"Some," I put in.
"Well we need to get you lot settled in so you'll have to leave these guys to their session."
"Aaw!" Mand groaned.
"And you were calling me ," Claire giggled.
"Okay, now that we've got everyone," God, I mean Chris started, "as you all know you'll be staying at the sports hostel over in Droylsden while we're in Manchester. You've got dinner at eight o'clock so we need to hustle a bit so if you can go fetch your cases, not your bikes, just your clothing and take them down to Steve in the basement we'll get you on your way."
You wouldn't think it would be too much of a task but with a bunch of teenage boys posturing and showing off in front of the eminently more mature but fewer girls - well it was bound to take longer than necessary. Steve was doing his best to pack everything and everybody into one of those big VW minibuses.
"Think so Steve," Caro replied.
"Everyone on board?"
"There's nowhere for Drew to sit," Mand complained.
"Bugger, it's supposed to be a fifteen seater," moaned Steve.
"It's alright, he can ride with me," Caroline suggested.
"Okay, Caro, see you there."
"Come on, Drew, my car's out the back."
Caroline's car turned out to be a Skoda estate plastered with BC and various sponsor logos complete with a fancy roof rack system.
She beeped the central locking as we approached, "Hop in, Drew, I know a shortcut to the hostel."
"So," Caroline started, "how is my favourite god child?"
"Okay I guess." I managed stifling a yawn.
"Long day, huh?"
"I've been talking to your dad."
"Oh." parental involvement is never good news.
"He's brought me up to date on your medical stuff."
"You're not going to make me ride with the girls?"
"I don't see how we can avoid it as you'll all be riding together."
"You know what I meant."
Instead of answering directly Caroline changed tack slightly, "Would that be so bad, riding with the girls that is?"
"It's not the girl's, it's being included as one of them."
"Okay, well we'll cross that bridge when we need to." Caroline brought the car to a stop outside of a large Victorian villa. "Here we are."
It certainly wasn't what I expected although I'm not sure what that was, maybe something like those cheap French hotels. Before we got out of the car the minibus pulled up behind us.
I won't bore you with a blow by blow account of who was rooming with who, there weren't enough double rooms for everyone to share so I found myself bunking in a tiny room by myself - I'm sure it was a set up as Jamie was in with Steve. Dinner was waiting for us by the time we'd installed ourselves in our rooms and returned downstairs.
"Okay team," Steve attracted our attention, "before we eat, just a couple of things."
There was a communal groan and at least one stomach rumble in return which of course gained a snigger or two - it wasn't me.
"Now I'm sure you all eat properly when you are at home…”
I won't give you the full pre dinner talk but the gist was that we'd be eating healthy food whilst we are in their care – no schnitzel then. Dinner was actually not bad, bangers, boiled taters and veg, I could've done with some pud but there was only fruit. No one moaned too much when we were despatched to bed.
“Keep it steady!” Steve bawled from the car behind.
I rolled my eyes to myself, steady, that's a joke. We've been ploughing the north Cheshire lanes for a little over an hour supposedly in rotation but much as I'm getting to like some of these guys most of them haven't a clue how to ride in a group. The idea is that you move up to the front do a couple of hundred metres then move aside for the next rider all the time keeping a constant pace, my new teamies pretty much all want to accelerate when they get to the front—dumkopfs!
My turn came and I did what I've been taught, move up watch the comp for 200m then slide off for the next rider.
“Nicely done, Drew.” Caro observed from beside me, she had drawn the short straw to act as on-bike marshal for the session.
They kept us riding, not fast but steady for almost four hours taking a loop south towards Gran's – I saw Jodrell Bank at one point, before heading back towards Manchester. We had a brief nature / refreshment stop at a service station but by the expressions on some faces it was longer than they were used to although everyone managed to hang on to the group even if the rotation was still a bit rough.
“Phew, I'm glad that's over,” Mand noted before taking a swig from her bidon.
“Didn't think it was too bad.”
“I still don't get why we were supposed to keep the same speed,” Claire opined joining us.
“You can't race at top speed all the time, sometimes you just need to eat the miles.”
“Indeed, young Bond, now you three had best get a move on, you've a lecture in thirty minutes,” Übermeister Toynbee pointed out.
“They never said anything about school work,” Claire complained when we reconvened in the hostel's dining room.
I wasn't that keen myself.
“Why's it all in foreign?” I grumped.
“What?” Mand enquired.
“This handout,” I waved the offending bit of paper at her.
“No it's not, looks to be in pretty standard English to me,” Claire observed.
“English?” I looked again, bum! Talk about feeling a right breast! I'm so used to reading German that I kind of expect it now.
“What language did you think it would be in?” Manda asked with a smirk.
“I er must be tired.”
“Stop teasing the lassie,” Jamie interjected, “she lives in Germany, I'm guessing there's noo so much written in English oot there.”
“Er what he said,” I agreed.
“Always sounds like they're trying to strangle someone,” Gethyn put in.
“You can talk German, Drew?” Manda pushed.
“Ja bitte Ich habe kleine Deutsche.”
“Said it sounds like strangulation,” Gethyn grinned.
“What'd she say then?” Darren queried.
“Don't ask me,” Gethyn pulled a face.
“I just said, yes, I have a little German.”
“Ladies?” Steve interrupted.
“Er sorry,” I hit blush as I apologised for our disturbance.
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 20.06.12